To win 'hearts and minds,' Brazil gives slums cable cars

Rio de Janeiro's slums are built on hillsides so steep they are difficult to travel up and down. The government is hoping to improve relations with residents by providing a free cable car to navigate the hills.

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    Rio hopes to keep slums peaceful with cable cars.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

The bedroom-sized cabin rumbles as cables pull up the 45-degree incline toward the sprawling police station atop one of Rio de Janeiro’s “pacified” favelas (shantytowns).

Rio’s slums have for so long grown up around hills that morro (hill) is synonymous with slum. Rio’s government built the hillside transport to win the “hearts and minds” of favela residents weary of years of police and drug trafficker shootouts. It is part of a wider two-year policing plan. Rio follows Caracas, Venezuela; and Medellín, Colombia, in its effort to offer transport to slums as a placating measure.

While providing curious tourists stunning views of the beach-side city, the cable car mostly benefits the favela residents. “It’s better because it’s more practical, more comfortable,” says a restaurant worker as she gets on for the free, 10-minute ride. Not even motorcycle taxis can get her up the steep, narrow streets.

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